Thursday, May 7, 2009

Links for the week

Given the H1N1 flu outbreak, should global surveillance of animal disease be activated? That will likely be a hot topic of conversation among epidemiologists and state public health veterinarians in coming months. Some diseases, like rabies, mad cow disease, and avian flu, are already under surveillance among animals. H1N1, however, is not - at least for now. However, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization asked for countries to report flu-like symptoms in pigs to combat H1N1. This article touches on this issue.

Using Google to help track an epidemic. Check out Google Flu if you haven't already. It uses Google search data and CDC flu surveillance data to track influenza trends for seasonal influenza. It's pretty interesting. Officials are working with Mexico to track similar trends in Mexico for H1N1. Apparently WHO also uses a "similar on-the-ground surveillance strategy" called the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, according to this article. This network is so cool! What if epidemiology were called "health intelligence" instead and we had CIA-like badges?? Now, the effectiveness of tools like this is still being evaluated. But still... very interesting potential.

Chicken pox.. I mean swine flu parties.. Wait, what? Apparently the "latest thing" in some circles is throwing an H1N1 party to infect your friends. This has been around for years for chicken pox, so that once all the kids have chicken pox, they are then immune. I won't speak to why some people think this is a good idea. I don't. Given how many kids die of seasonal influenza each year, this isn't funny. It's a bad idea. Viruses affect people differently, and it's just a bad idea. Don't do it. Buy a mask, wash your hands, cover your cough, etc.

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